"That's important, but it's not the full story". When looking at the entire system behind getting that bowl of ragù on the table, the step with the greatest environmental impact is sourcing the produce or meat, but storing food, displaying it so shoppers can browse at their leisure, and then throwing it out when it doesn't get bought actually makes grocery shopping, as a concept, fairly expensive.
For the study, the researchers looked at the whole life cycle of meal kits - from farm to landfill. While grocery store meals have less packaging per meal, more food has to be purchased and that leads to higher household food waste.
The researchers found that meals purchased at a grocery store and prepared at home produce 33 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than equivalent meals from services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. In fact, store meals on average produce 33% more greenhouse gas emissions than meal kits bought from the likes of Blue Apron, according to environmental scientists at the University of MI, who considered emissions for food's journey "from farm to garbage can", as NPR puts it.
The meal-kit model also reduces some of the waste that's common in grocery stores - like overstocking to prevent shortages.
A team of researchers at the University of MI ordered five meals-salmon, a cheeseburger, chicken, pasta and salad-from the company Blue Apron, then made the same recipes using food purchased at a grocery store. Another way the kits displayed emissions savings is through the "last-mile transportation", or the final leg of food's trip to the consumer. Meal kits are one of many products delivered on mail trucks, and are therefore associated with less carbon emissions than driving to and from the grocery store.